AT 88, former Lautoka and Fiji rep Ram Chandar Lotan is still going strong. Him and a couple of his friends gather almost daily for a few hours at the South Seas Club for few bowls of kava and some beers.
"Time hardly goes by at home so we gather to talk about the old times and as usual make new friends. There isn't much to do now since we are all retired," the former Blues left back shares in Hindi.
Joining him often are two other former Lautoka reps, Nur Mohammed and Ragamutu, who played for their district in the 50s.
Lotan, oldest of the three, featured from 1947 to 1953.
Lotan recalls the days when he used to run around the Topline area as a youth.
"We were really into football. I went on to play for the CSR Endeavour team and the Lautoka team those days had some good players like fullback Choy Gopal, Subarmani, who was also known as 'One-hander' because he had one fractured arm, Narayan Sami, Bhole Ram Sarup, Mun Reddy and others," he says.
All the players back then just wanted to play.
"We were given the blue jersey and that was it. We'd go on and play our hearts out. Money was never an issue. It was all about district pride but times have changed."
Lotan missed out on Lautoka's 1949 and 1950 back-to-back IDC triumphs because of work commitment.
"I used to drive the Pacific bus," he recalls.
"My route was Suva to Lautoka and that made it really hard for me to train and juggle football and work. I made up my mind that it would only be fair to give someone else a chance."
Lotan says they faced a lot of obstacles back then but all that was overcome with the love of the game.
"We had leather balls and there was a four inch wide gap to put the tube in, pump it and tie it with laces to get the ball into a good round shape," he says.
"It was nothing like the tubeless balls we have now but we still enjoyed our football as most of us played with our hearts given there was no distraction of any kind, like money that they have now."
Lotan is full of praise for one of the finest players the country has ever seen — the late Augustine Thoman.
When asked about the feared striker, here is what he had to say.
"He (Thoman) was too good and a very famous centre-forward during his time. He had just come out of school and in his first year he went straight into the Lautoka team."
Lotan also remembers former Fiji and Lautoka goalkeeper Nagbhusnam Chetty as "a top player".
"He was also known as Naga Brown and was a hard man to beat," he says.
New Zealand visit
The Kiwis came in 1953 and had two games in Fiji, one against the national side and the other against Lautoka.
Lotan played in both and although the national side lost 0-9 in Suva, Lautoka surprisingly held the visitors 0-0 at home.
"In the Lautoka game, we had scored a goal through Babu Krishna and were going to win that match but this was diallowed by the referee Andrew Moti, a schoolteacher," he recalls.
"We lost the Fiji game because we got together very late and it was hard working out a combination."
Lotan remembers former Rewa and Lautoka reps Vilitati Lee and Onnie Wong as two of many players to have stayed or come out of the Topline area.
"There were Kelemedi "Cheetah" and his brother Wame Vosuga and some others. Lautoka had some very talented players before.
"We also have a good young Lautoka team now but if they stop bringing in players from other districts all will be fine."
From the youth of the late 40s to the golden age of the 80s, Lotan has seen the rise and fall of football around him over the years. For now, it's time to relax with his buddies, have a few drinks and enjoy the tasty chaser from Hafiz Rahiman's restaurant at the South Seas Club in Lautoka.